Christopher “Rev” Fitzpatrick didn’t come up with the idea to inextricably bind rock music and horror (you can thank The Misfits for that one), but he did increase the stakes by adding podcasts into the mix. The Cabinet of Dr. Reverend is the brainchild of Fitzpatrick, who created the half-music, half-podcast and totally terrifying project as a way for different local musicians to cross-pollinate outside of their regular bands.
The podcast blueprint is simple: watch a horror movie, write a song about it, interview the involved musicians and fashion it all into a succinct dialogue. The key factor is the cabinet aspect; the lineup of musicians (as well as musical style of the new single) changes every month. The first two episodes of the podcast have been completed and are available for streaming online.
Fitzpatrick started the project after a slight lull in his main band, retro-horror garage group The Evil Streaks, when he whipped out his metaphorical rolodex of connections he’s made in his 15-plus years in the New England and Greater Boston music scene.
“I have a theory that when you have a local band, the band is only as good as its weakest link, and to really get to that next level, I think local bands need to become mini super-groups,” Fitzpatrick said. “When I was trying to start a new project, I was like, ‘I need to make a super-group of people in order to really take it to that next level.’ But then I realized I knew a lot of talented musicians that could work in that super-group of people, and I’m really not one for compromise.”
The gathering to record the first episode was an erratic experiment. Fitzpatrick sat on his living room couch, accompanied by past band mates and current close friends, fiddling with a song to match the plot of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, the first horror movie project’s namesake. If this whole project collapses in on itself, hopefully it won’t leave this living room.
Mark Zero, the electronic shredder behind Devlyn Sydus and Necropheliac Meat Circus, tweaked a mandolin in a skin-crawling manner, backed by ukulele and acoustic guitar from Gianfranco Abbatemarco and Jimi Halfdead. Thirty Silver’s Joe Zaffarano covered percussion on a cajón (they aren’t ready for their neighbors to call the police with noise complaints just yet) and singer Drew Barker wrote music with Fitzpatrick for the first time in seven years since they left punk group Mongrel.
“The train wreck is turning into a f*cking Amtrak,” Zero said as the individual rhythms started to become intertwined into an old-fashioned folk frenzy.
Episode two’s song is a complete 180 into power metal, this time lending power riffs from Shawn Devlyn’s take on slasher classic My Bloody Valentine. March’s offering is a re-make of “The Galway Races,” made famous by The Pogues, a shameless drinking tune based on the 2012 creature feature Grabbers. Clearly, there are only two common threads: Fitzpatrick and horror.
“I wanted to finally open up the restraints of not just being in a band with a certain group of people, with a certain sound, with a certain sound and a certain image,” Fitzpatrick said. “I wanted to take creative control and do everything my own way, and along with that work with musicians that I normally wouldn’t get to work with, metal musicians or folk musicians.”
Considering his background in radio, it’s almost a wonder that this ensemble didn’t come together sooner. Fitzpatrick started his career in radio as a student at Emerson College, but after graduation, focused more on his bands than the spot-on radio voice he had curated with his show Riff Raff Radio.
“I think my senior year, I was hosting about four shows, and I was the assistant manager for WECB, and all of the drops and everything were my voice,” he said.
Now Fitzpatrick uses that same radio voice to interview Cabinet members about the movie they watched and the project’s new songs every month. Ideally, Fitzpatrick interviews each member about that month’s episode after they have recorded their instrument’s part.
George O’Connor, who played guitar in episode two and also produced Cabinet song “Down In The Mine (Cancel The Dance),” noted how the entire relaxed approach of the project makes it easier for the original songs to come together.
“Rev creates a very welcoming and fun environment and I think we were all excited to be a part of it,” O’Connor said. “I think it’s a testament to Rev’s attitude that he can get these diverse people together every month and have then come together and happily, successfully make a thing. It’s impressive.”
While the project is in its fledgling stage, Fitzpatrick aims to grow it beyond his New England music network and involve faraway bands with local gigs in the monthly podcasts.
“The hope is that we start having bands in the area that are on tour use it as a promotion for being in the area,” he said. “The plan is to raise it up from local bands to also larger bands so that we can get some bigger name guests.”
It’s the motivation of promotion and new music that drives the project forward, rather than any sort of financial gain.
“People in the Cabinet have mentioned we should start charging for stuff—I don’t want to do that. I’ll avoid doing it as long as possible,” Fitzpatrick said. “The whole project is meant to promote those of us musicians on the episode as well as the podcast itself, but also to be an outlet for more national artists eventually.”
Until Fitzpatrick loops in those national touring acts, the project will remain one of Massachusetts’ most novel and totally malleable music super-groups, which guitarist Mark Zero says is the best part about the Cabinet.
“What sets it apart is that it’s the best of all of us in a different way,” Zero said. “It isn’t apart from our community in any way because it literally is the community.”
“It’s like all of us coming together under Rev’s vision and theme to put out something that represents everyone in its own way,” Zero added. “The first song for example, ‘Somnambulist;’ you’ve got Jimi’s catchy songwriting in the verse, my harmonic weirdness on mandolin and guitar, Drew Barker’s vocals in a way people likely haven’t heard before, Joe Z’s ability to adapt percussion any way the song calls for, Franco stepping in with a period-of-the-film authentic banjo ukulele and of course Rev nailing down the groove of the song. It all just works in a way that nobody would have expected from us, but it’s authentically all of us.”
Listen to the first two episodes of The Cabinet of Dr. Reverend here!